Sorry this post is so late! I have been so busy and have not had much wifi.
I have finally arrived in Colombia!! I have been so excited and anxious about this part of my trip because I have heard to many great things about Colombia from both backpackers and friends. I was so scared that it would not live up to the hype, but it is even better than I have imagined. At this point I have posted myself up at The Dreamer Hostel in Santa Marta, Colombia and have used this amazing hostel as a base to explore everything this area has to offer, which is a lot. The city itself is nothing too great, but once you get outside of the city a whole world opens up for you of fabulous scenery.
The first day that I arrived at the hostel, they told me that the last Lost City Trek was going to leave in the morning and I had to decide right away if I would like to be part of that hike. Basically this is a 4 day hike into the tropical forest near Santa Marta. In the 1970’s gold diggers found this wonderful city that was abandoned by the Tayrona people when the Spanish came to conquer. The native people moved further up into the mountains and not until the city was found did the local populations of Colombia even know that native people were still living in the mountains. It is described as the Machu Pichu of Colombia, but unlike Machu Pichu there is no other way to get to the city other than hiking in and staying in camps along the way. Which is exactly what I decided to do.
The journey was very wet, either from sweating (which came out in buckets from the humidity) or from the afternoon thunderstorm every day. I went with a tour company names Guias y Baquinos who did a really great job, but it doesn’t really matter which of the 4 tour companies that you go with because the price is all the same and the food and lodging is the same as well. Each group has a guide and an interpreter. Our guide was Jason and our interpreter was Pedro. Jason did an amazing job and really cared about all of us. He was knowledge about the land as he grew up in a local town and had a really good relationship with the native people.
The first day we were picked up from our hostel around 10am and driven 2 hours to a town called Machete to eat lunch. The town was called Machete because in the past men would fight with machetes when the got too drunk. After lunch we began our trek. The first day of trekking was only 3 hours and it wasn’t too bad. We had a bit of cloud cover but I heard if we did not then it gets really hot. Its a lot of uphill on the way there, but we took multiple breaks and there are guys selling drinks all the way there at little stands. I liked the lodging the first night the best. It was spread out and we had an area with probably 40 bunk beds all with mosquito nets, though I am not sure how often they wash anything so I was thankful for my sleeping liner. There was a natural pool nearby where you could jump off of cliffs at 2 different heights into the water. It was a great way to cool off after the long hike. We had our own personal chefs who served fish the first night (and when I say fish I mean a whole fish, eyeballs and all, staring at you). I don’t like fish so they just gave me cheese instead and as with every meal here we had rice and plantains as well.
The second day was a long one. We woke up at 5:30 and got going at 6:30. The first part of the trek took us about 3 hours with a fruit break in the middle. At this point we are submerged in the rainforest and the scenery is gorgeous. All kinds of big vines, tall trees, bushes, and waterfalls intermingling. The path on the other hand wasn’t too bad. It was definitely very muddy at times because as I said before it rains pretty consistently every afternoon. But in general it is a well trodden path. Along the way we saw lots of the native Tayrona people walking along the path all wearing the white kind of basic dresses (even the men). I thought that white was an interesting color choice for their clothes since everything is so muddy. The men carry around these things called popoyo which is a large container carved out of a seed where inside they carry around crushed up seashells. Inside they keep a wooden stick and in a side bag they carry around coca leaves. Throughout the day, the put coca leaves in the side of their cheek and then use the stick to put it in the shell power which acts as a base to break down the coca leaves. So basically, these men walk around on a bit of a coke high all the time. Yet, women are not allowed to do this because they are “stronger” than the men and do not need it for strength.
At lunch we stopped and then sunbathed in the river for a couple of hours until lunch was ready. Again, it was the perfect way to cool off because you could sit on rocks in the sun and just put your feet into the water. For lunch we had a kind of stew which I am pretty sure got almost our entire group sick. After lunch, we walked for another 3 hours again with a fruit break in the middle. Our group tried to hike fast because there were not enough beds at the next campsite and if we got there early we could sleep in a bed. This was a blessing for us because that night 11/14 of us had stomach issues and were up for most of the night, including myself. I also had a double whammy because I was getting a cold as well and always on one of the first days I get a fever. So going into the third day which was the day we went to the lost city, I had stomach problems and a fever but I was not going to miss the opportunity to go.
Our guide let us sleep in a bit the third day and be the last group in the Lost City. To get up to the lost city we had to climb 1200 steps and more once we were in the city. It was definitely a struggle for me that day, but I made it through slowly. The lost city was very beautiful and was built on the side of a mountain. It was the religious place for the people and the shamans lived there. They believe that there is still a lot of gold buried there because they buried gold with the important leaders that died, but the native people won’t let anyone excavate people that would disturb the spirits of those who died. There is also a large military presence at the top to protect the city from gold diggers. Up there, we were also able to talk to the current spiritual leader of the people and meet his children (14 of them!). We returned to the camp for lunch and I took a long nap. Then, we had to hike back 3 hours to the camp that we stayed at the lunch before. By dinner that night I was feeling a bit better but others in the group were worse. It was pouring rain the whole afternoon and night so we were soaked and I did not have a single piece of dry clothing.
The final day of the trek was not too bad. We had a small group of us just try to get it done as fast as possible because we had 6 hours of hiking to complete before lunchtime. We left around 6 am and by 9 am we were at the camp from the first night. We were able to go swimming again to cool off, had a snack, then kept going all the way to the end. By the end my feet were a shrivelled mess!! My body does not react well to the wet and they hurt so bad! The end I hiked in sandals just to get out of the wet shoes for awhile. We had lunch at the same place from where we started then headed home. I got back to the hostel and got a shower (all showers are cold here which is a bummer), gave my clothes to the laundry, and just chilled out. I went to bed at like 8pm that night I was so tired.
The next day (Friday) we just chilled out at the hostel. I was hanging out with two of the guys from my trek names Gerrt (Netherlands) and Matt (London). I caught up on my blog from the previous week and took a nap by the pool. That night we had a big night out. We drank at the hostel and played some beer pong (which I rocked! bounce shot for the win!) Here, I met a couple of other people that I had met on the Lost City trek and hung out with them the rest of the night and even convince them to go to Punta Gallinas with me once I returned. Then, we went out to a hostel with a rooftop club and danced which was so much fun except for the fact that I had to wake up early the next morning and go hiking.
Saturday we woke up at 6:30am and jumped into a shuttle to go to Tayrona National Park. It was about a 45 minute drive until the park entrance. From there, you can take another shuttle in the park for $1 to cut out the first hour of walking. It was pretty hilarious because the shuttle was so small and we were there with a bunch of really tall guys who couldn’t even sit down because their legs were too long. Once there, it was two hours of hiking along the forest and the beach to reach the place where we were staying. The scenery was absolutely stunning! It was very remote and there was palm trees and other trees that bent over the pathway. Then, there were these long stretches of white sand beaches with the most beautiful blue water hitting the shore. A lot of the places you cannot swim thought because the rip tides are too strong. That night we stayed in hammocks and there was a restaurant we could buy food. We chilled at the beach all day and met up that night with Belen (Spain) and Quentin (Belgium) who were also from my lost city trek. They were some of my favorite people as they were so nice and I connected with Belen a lot since she was my hiking buddy most of the time in the Lost City. We all watched the stars that night and saw a lot of shooting stars and the milky way.
The second day there was very chill. Just hung out on the beach and read my book all day going into the water when I got hot. We also met up with four of the girls from Germany that we also went on the lost city trek with us. So at this point it was Lost city reunion because there were 9/14 from the trek in Tayrona together. The most interesting part of the day was the boat ride back because it was crazy!! The waves hitting us were taller than us sitting in the boat and the boat was rocking like crazy. When we got back everyone was soaking wet! Also, it was beautiful to see all the cliffs and the other remote beaches along the way. Once we got back Belen, Quentin, and I had a drink in Taganga and watch the sunset which was the most beautiful sunset so far on this trip.
This was one of my favourite weeks of the trip so far since all of the scenery was vastly different. It was also really nice because I was able to meet some amazing people and consistently stay with the for a week. This eliminated all of the awkwardness of trying to meet to people every day.